The Diocese of Memphis (“the Diocese”), established in 1971, encompasses 21 counties in west Tennessee and a Catholic community of 65,779. There are 42 parishes, five missions, 47 active diocesan priests, and 51 deacons. Within the Diocese are 20 elementary schools, six high schools, and one Catholic university. The Most Reverend J. Terry Steib, installed in May 1993, is the fourth and current bishop of Memphis. A compliance audit was conducted during the period of October 20-24, 2003.
The following describes conditions evident during the week of the audit. Information on corrective actions taken by the Diocese subsequent to the audit will be found in the last paragraph.
To Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Diocese is prepared to offer outreach in response to allegations of sexual abuse by clergy. A Recommendation was issued to provide for cooperation with social services and other religious denominations. The bishop’s designee has met with victims/survivors of abuse. Ron Ambuel, who has degrees in psychology and counseling, was appointed victim assistance coordinator in April 2003. It was suggested the Diocese retain an alternate for when Ambuel is unavailable. A diocesan review board was established in November 2002. Procedures for filing abuse allegations appear on the diocesan website and have been printed in the West Tennessee Catholic; however, no procedures are readily available. An Instruction was issued to make reporting procedures readily available in printed form and via periodic public announcements. No confidentiality agreements have been entered into since June 2002.
To Guarantee Effective Response to Allegations of Abuse of a Minor
A Recommendation was made to amend diocesan regulations to include a provision that the Diocese will cooperate with civil authorities and to communicate with local prosecutor offices to share diocesan procedures. The Diocese has a process in place that addresses allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy. A Recommendation was issued that the Diocese revise its policy to state that accused clergy will be offered professional assistance for healing and well-being. Standards for clergy are incorporated into diocesan regulations but do not account for others in positions of trust. It was recommended that the procedures be expanded to include all church personnel who have regular contact with children. Diocesan communications policy focuses solely on internal notice. It was recommended that the policy be expanded to address external communications as well.
To Ensure Accountability of Procedures
The Diocese has participated in the research study regarding the “nature and scope” of the problem of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.
To Protect the Faithful in the Future
VIRTUS safe environment facilitator training was scheduled for October 2003. An Instruction was issued to address the need to schedule and implement safe environment training for parents, educators, clergy, employees, and volunteers. A Recommendation was also made to identify the child-centered safe environment programs for each age level. Background evaluations have been conducted for school system personnel for the last four years. An Instruction directed the Diocese to promptly conduct background investigations on all diocesan personnel, beginning with clergy. Law enforcement and relevant community agencies are used for background evaluations. Seminary candidates are screened extensively during a six- to eight-month application process. No priest who has committed an act of sexual misconduct has been transferred for ministerial purposes. The bishop has met and discussed the Charter with representatives of the 13 religious institutions in the Diocese. There are ongoing programs to assist clergy in keeping with the Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests (2001)1 and screening and evaluation techniques for candidates for ordination.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Memphis was issued three Instructions, six Recommendations, and one Commendation.
INSTRUCTION 1—The Diocese will make complaint-filing procedures for sexual abuse readily available in printed form and via public announcements.
INSTRUCTION 2—The Diocese will schedule and implement safe environment training for parents, educators, clergy, employees, and volunteers.
INSTRUCTION 3—The Diocese will promptly conduct background investigations on all diocesan personnel, beginning with priests and deacons.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the Diocese provide for cooperation with social services and other religious denominations in the outreach program.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That the Diocese amend regulations to include wording to the effect that the Diocese will cooperate with civil authorities, communicate with the local prosecutor, and share diocesan regulations to open lines of communication.
RECOMMENDATION 3—That the Diocese revise policy to state that alleged offenders will be offered professional assistance for healing and well-being.
RECOMMENDATION 4—That the Diocese revise the standards for clergy to include other personnel who have regular contact with children.
RECOMMENDATION 5—That the Diocese expand the policy on transparency and openness in communications to include external communications.
RECOMMENDATION 6—That the Diocese identify the safe environment programs in place for children and young people.
COMMENDATION—For proactive initiatives by the Diocese to provide safe environments for children, and for the establishment of procedures to respond to instances of abuse in 1995.
As of December 1, 2003, one Instruction and six Recommendations had been addressed. The Diocese of Memphis is found to be compliant with the provisions of the Charter, with the exception of Article 12, as measured by the process described in Chapter 2 in Section I.
The compliance audit measured activity that has occurred since the adoption of the Charter in June 2002 with the exception of certain mandated actions found in Articles 5 and 14. Actions taken by the diocese/eparchy prior to June 2002 to address allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests and deacons are not included in this summary report.
Office of Child and Youth Protection
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017-1194
(202) 541-5413 | FAX: (202) 541-5410